From the Apennines to the Andes

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Mexico, with Vane Jacaima GRIda picked me up from the airport in Milan last summer, and drove me to her home in Parma. My mind was dotted with flash-backs. What I remembered most from my previous summer’s teaching trip to Italy was being awed by the Alps. Tall and majestic, snow-capped and benevolent, they greeted me every morning from my bedroom window in Merano. This was exactly a year later, and I have returned to teach in another part of the country. As Ida drove the car I noticed that the mountains around us were much lower than the Alps. Green and rolling, they were shaped like women’s hips along our path. I asked for their name and heard Ida say: “The Apennines.”

My heart leaped!
One of my most beloved books as an 11 year old girl was “The Heart” – a collection of stories by Italian author Edmondo De Amicis . I read them again and again, translated into Hebrew, in Jerusalem of my childhood. I cried rivers over the saddest, and my favorite, story in the book: “From the Apennines to the Andes.” A poor Italian boy’s mother leaves home in search for work in foreign countries to support her family. She travels by boat and her children do not hear from her for months. Fearing the worst, her son takes a journey from his home in the Apennines, and sets off by sea to search for his beloved mother at the Andes mountains, where she originally headed. His journey is fraught with misfortune, wrong turns and dead-ends. My child’s heart was wrenched time and again as I read the story. I despaired with every disappointment along the way, and soared in the last pages where the boy finally finds his mother, sick and hopeless, unwilling to live without the sight of her children, only to make a triumphant recovery when her son eventually and unexpectedly appears!

Having never imagined I would see the Apennines in the flesh, here I was: driven by Ida straight into “The Heart” of my childhood! My woman’s heart took flight. I excitedly told Ida of my favorite childhood story only to hear her exclaim: “Me too! I absolutely LOVED this book. It was a childhood favorite!”

Across cultures and countries our inner girls met to share a powerful, poignant childhood memory, a gem that still sparkled in both of our hearts… I knew I have arrived in the right place!

The Red Tent workshops I held in the Apennines, filled with amazing women from all over Italy, were deeply healing. There are many stories to be told of our time together, but I am skipping forward in order to follow this particular thread of the Heart.

A few short months after returning from Europe I was on an airplane again, going on another teaching tour. Heading to Chile, I was on my first voyage to the southern hemisphere. My heart skipped a beat when I realized that the range of mountains that crosses Chile from north to south, the mountains towering over Santiago, where I was heading to teach — are none other than the Andes mountains…

I had completed a circle… Synchronicity led me on the route of “The Heart” from the Apennines to the Andes. The boy of my childhood story, followed by countless Italian and Israeli girls, went to search for his mother. Here I was, following the call of the Great Mother of us All, sharing sacred space with women of different cultures, deepening into our hearts and wombs on a healing journey for the girls we all were, and the women we have all become.

I bow deeply to this life’s calling. I offer gratitude for being led on the route of the heart…

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